Nicola Ratti, Ode

For the avoidance of doubt, this Nicola is a man – an Italian guitarist and pianist, formerly of Pin Pin Sugar. Ode, his third solo album, is a collection of quiet and gentle moments. Minimalist to the core, its timeless summery beauty is unfortunately undermined by a typical piece of new age flim-flam on the back cover: “This music is a day, a dream and a night at the same instant.” Whether you buy the truth of this statement or not, and I most certainly don’t, there is still much to admire here.

This ambient and almost entirely instrumental music seems to me highly evocative of a dreamlike summer’s day where nothing moves amid the stillness and the heathaze. Over the seven tracks, not much changes. Ratti’s guitar and piano drift lazily around Chet Martino’s languorous double bass and André Arraiz-Rivas’s spare and placid percussion. Occasionally other sounds wander in, like the crackly surface noise on “…and Fireworks” which makes it sound as though the song’s coming at you by way of a lovely worn-out old LP rather than a shiny, brittle and unloveable CD. As the song progresses Ratti muses to himself quietly in Italian, sounding lyrical and tender as he does so.

Elsewhere, Ratti drops in brief sound effects of running water and cooing wood pigeons. These interventions had me reaching for the CD sleeve, which contains moody black & white photographs of bridges over rivers, all in deeply forested terrain. There’s an environmental subtext running through this record, not some grim ecological warning but a feeling of human presence as an essentially benign and unthreatening adjunct to the natural world. Ratti’s vox on “Dream #2”, for example, are wordless and featherlight, while his acoustic guitar skips lightly along and a faint rhythmic pulse keeps the track ticking over nicely. This modest little album is a quietly atmospheric delight.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 19, 2011)

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